Slideshow: Humanity’s Striking Diversity of Traditional Dress

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Humans have adorned themselves in myriad ways, across time and across cultures. Much of it was and remains functional. But clothing is also a canvas for the human spirit. Here’s 34 different ways we painted it.

A man from Nagasaki, Japan in 1868. Image: G. Olrik, National Museum of Denmark. A Ghanaian girl in ceremonial dress. Image: Kasia McCormick, USAID. A woman from the Yi people of China, Vietnam and Thailand. Image: Zoharby. Dragomans were interpreters and guides for Europeans traveling across the Middle East. Image: Travelers in the Middle East Archive. The Garos are a people native to parts of India and Bangladesh. They are one of a few surviving matrilineal societies. Image: Vishma Thapa. The Sami are the indigenous people of the Arctic and northern Scandinavia. Image: Anthony Randell. Women in ceremonial Kazakh dress. Image: Bill Ingalls, NASA. The Bunad are the native “folk costumes” of Norway. Image: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:KinsarvikBunad.jpg Traditional dress from northeast India. Image: Vikramjit Kakati. Fashionable Welsh clothing around the 1870s. Image: The National Library of Wales. A Gayonese man of Indonesia on his wedding day. Image: Tropenmuseum. Traditional clothes from Finland. Image: Jimmie, Wikimedia Commons. The sari garment of India can be traced back to the Indus Valley Civilization, one of the very first civilizations. Image: Écrivain. An Amazonian shaman of Ecaudor. Image: Veton PICQ, Wikimedia Commons. French statesman Joseph Marie Portalis in the 1820s. Image: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Joseph_Marie_Portalis.jpg A couple in Seattle celebrating the Chinese New Year. Image: Joe Mabel. A woman in Potosí, Bolivia. Image: Yves Picq. A traditional Bedouin garb. Image: Ed Brambley. A woman from Kyrgyzstan around 1870 wearing the Saukele ceremonial hat. Image: Library of Congress. The Minangkabau people of Sumatra still practice pre-Islamic ethnic traditions – what’s called “adat” in the Muslim world – in addition to their Islamic practices. These men are wearing adat clothing circa 1900. Image: C.B. Nieuwenhuis, Tropenmuseum. A Navaho man dressed as a god impersonator. Image: Edward S. Curtis, Library of Congress. Image: Edward S. Curtis, Wellcome Libary, London. A woman wearing a veil scarf in Rajasthan, India. Image: Sushmita Balasubramani. A woman wearing traditional Hungarian clothes in Budapest. Image: Frank Schulenburg. A new bride wears a traditional Bahraini wedding dress. Image: Jayson De Lyon. An English judge wearing court attire in 1893. Image: Alexander Bassano. A Muslim man from Dagestan in traditional military clothes. Image: Sergei Prokudin-Gorskii, Library of Congress. A woman of Sierra Leone. Image: Steve Evans. A man from Hooper Bay, Alaska in 1928 wears an Inuit parka. Edward S. Curtis, Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Romanian dress. Image: Izabelat. Traditional Russian outfit. Image: Franco Folini. Native Americans of the Pacific coast in ceremonial clothing. Image: Benjamin Haldane, U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. The pollera is the national costume of Panama. Image: Ayaita. An Arabic traditional dress in Ramallah, Palestine, 1920. Image: Khalil Raad.
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The Minangkabau people of Sumatra still practice pre-Islamic ethnic traditions – what’s called “adat” in the Muslim world – in addition to their Islamic practices. These men are wearing adat clothing circa 1900. Image: C.B. Nieuwenhuis, Tropenmuseum.

Featured Image: Traditional dress of Sardinia, Italy. Credit: Cristiano Cani.